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I'm looking for some material that I can use to fix a small table candle in. The candle will be about 10cm long with a 1cm diameter. The idea is that there will be a wooden board with holes of various shapes and a number of candles standing behind it so that a flickering light will be visible through the holes (see sketch below).

I could of course get small candle holders. But I vaguely remember that there used to exist some kind of material that we used for this. I think the best way to describe it is as a kind of non-sticky bubble gum: it is easy to shape with your hands, does not fall apart, and does not harden over time. So you could make a small ball, flatten it into a disc, and press the candle into it and it would stay upright. Obviously the material had to be fireproof. Unfortunately, I do not have a photo.

Does anyone know what sort of material I'm describing here? Or something else that I could use?

enter image description here

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    There are various putties, clays, and tacky materials. Not much sticks well to wax, so you would probably need to mold it into a candleholder around the bottom of the candle. But a common way to stick a candle is with candle wax. You melt a few drops on the surface where you want the candle and stick the bottom of the candle in the molten wax. The molten wax grips most surfaces well enough to hold the candle as long as it isn't subject to hard bumps.
    – fixer1234
    Commented Oct 24, 2021 at 15:54
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    Most common materials would similarly melt and/or burn. I suspect you would need to basically mold your own candleholder out of something that doesn't melt or burn, but that seems like a lot of unnecessary work compared to just using a candleholder. If it only needs to last a few hours, you could saturate toilet paper with water, which immediately becomes moldable mush, and pack it around the base of the candle, leaving it soaking wet. It should still be wet when the candle burns down. You would probably want to confirm that the candle doesn't dry it out enough to ignite when it gets low.
    – fixer1234
    Commented Oct 24, 2021 at 19:28
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    A cheap, simple solution would be to mold a little aluminum foil around the base of the candle and stick it in place with double-sided tape or almost anything.
    – fixer1234
    Commented Oct 24, 2021 at 21:39
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    You need to be careful to avoid a fire hazard. Many materials will melt and/or burn when exposed to heat or flame. Others will act like a wick for the molten wax and result in a much bigger flame, even eventually igniting. The molten wax (supplemented with flammable materials in the clay/putty), can flow over a much bigger area if the containment melts, and you suddenly have a big flame area that can ignite nearby stuff. I would be very careful with modelling clay, dried Play-Doh, wood--basically anything flammable or porous. These fires can quickly get out of hand and pose a real danger.
    – fixer1234
    Commented Oct 25, 2021 at 17:29
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    @ChrisH definitely not! I will wait a bit to see if the new activity generates more answers, and otherwise accept yours. Feel free to ping me if I forget, I'm not very active on this site.
    – Keelan
    Commented Nov 3, 2021 at 15:28

2 Answers 2

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Two non-flammable solid options to make a holder/base yourself are:

  • Aluminium (which might need different tools but is in some ways easier to work than wood). I'd probably use two plates joined with screws, drilling appropriately-sized holes in the top one to leave pockets for the candles

  • Plaster. I'd make a wooden box, fill it with plaster of paris and set greased candles into it, supporting them with a jig. Remove the greased candles once it's set and you have a holder ready to use. The wooden box will allow joining to the front panel and protect the plaster in handling, as it can be rather brittle. You could even use concrete, if you happened to have some spare. The wooden mould/shell could be replaced with cardboard but you might need to fix that in place before pouring the plaster. The plaster stops the flame getting to the shell; it doesn't need to be a thick layer, just enough to work with.

In both these cases I'd still use a little molten candlewax to stick tall candles into the holes, to make them more secure against falling over if the whole thing gets knocked.

There are non-flammable putties, but most of the ones I can track down are either prone to drying up (glazing putty), or smoke a lot even if they don't burn (Blutack).

Sculpting clay (real clay that comes out of the ground, not polymer or air-drying) is non-flammable and formable by hand. Even after a little drying it's rather soft for this job, but might work if there's no danger of the holder being knocked and tipping over the candles.

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  • So far plaster is, for me, the easiest solution. It is of course not as easy as something like play-doh, but I haven't been able to find a fireproof variant of that.
    – Keelan
    Commented Nov 3, 2021 at 15:06
  • If you want something you can mould by hand, raw clay is probably best, but I wouldn't trust it to hold strongly enough
    – Chris H
    Commented Nov 3, 2021 at 15:19
  • @Keelan, there are cement products that can be molded like clay, and air dry clays you can make that consist largely of mineral materials (plaster, cement, etc.), that are fireproof. These can be molded like clay. But it generally means buying materials that are sold in large quantities and have a shelf life. Plaster is probably the fastest and easiest solution.
    – fixer1234
    Commented Nov 4, 2021 at 19:29
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I found wood works fine; just drill appropriate size holes where you want. There are essentially unlimited options in the appearance of the wood. I used oak which I sandblasted to emphasize the grain. One caution, for multiple candles, there needs to be generous separation to avoid mutual heat from melting the candles. My brother ( Professor of Design) made a similar candelabra; The first time it was used (and only time ) it was given the name "conflagration" because of the interaction of the close candles.

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    What could possibly go wrong when you combine flammable and wax-absorbing wood with melting and burning wax? Apparently, you've managed to not burn your house down, yet, but are you really recommending this as a solution, given the safe materials available for use?
    – fixer1234
    Commented Oct 25, 2021 at 17:38
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    The base of the candle is mounted in the wood ; the wood does not get warm. Commented Oct 25, 2021 at 18:42
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    The wax-saturated wood is essentially the same composition as a firelog. You're relying on the candle going out before heat or flame gets too close to the wood. That kinda seems like the definition of "playing with fire".
    – fixer1234
    Commented Oct 25, 2021 at 19:07
  • Wood burns. NG.
    – rebusB
    Commented Oct 26, 2021 at 19:44
  • @fixer1234 there are plenty of wooden candlesticks and other candleholders (and not just for tealights with their foil cases; it's not inherently a problem
    – Chris H
    Commented Nov 3, 2021 at 13:12

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